Interviews : The Vision Bleak

The Vision Bleak : Secrecies in Darkness
The Vision Bleak
With Schwadorf
Interviewed by

Dark and mysterious, just like Empyrium - the break up of which spawned its origin, The Vision Bleak is a one of a kind band that authentically fuses aspects of horror imagery with orchestral elements and rocking heavy metal. With two excellent albums under its belt, it was only a matter of time until we approached The Vision Bleak for an interview request...

First of all, congratulations on a wonderful album. How does it feel to be completely done?

Thanks for the kind words. It felt like a big relief once the album was finished. But afterwards a lot of work lurks around the corner – promo, live gigs etc..., so you are never really done.

What was the writing process like for 'Carpathia'? When exactly did you start composing the new songs?

Writing the album felt extremely fluent to me. I think we started with the first two songs already in early 2004, quite immediately after 'The Deathship...' was released. I remember the first riff I wrote for the album was the main theme of "Carpathia" (the titletrack) followed by "Secrecies in Darkness". Those two songs set the general tempo and atmosphere of the album.

You obviously spent much more time in the studio for this one than for 'Deathship...'. Did you find this experience somewhat stressing, did you have the so called "sophomore jinx" in the back of your mind, thinking "we really have to make this one better than the previous one"?

That's more of a feeling I get immediately after an album is finished, something like "Shit, I will never again be able to write good 40-50 minutes of music..." – but thankfully I am always wrong. Once the first ideas come and we work them out it always feels to us like the new material is much stronger than the previous album. It's a little bit like with a writer – bringing the first words down to paper is the most difficult part of it all.

After back to back listens to 'Deathship Has a New Captain' and 'Carpathia', one cannot help but to uncover your growth as musicians and songwriters. What were some of the things you wanted to concentrate on 'Carpathia' you feel your first album lacked?

That's a good question indeed! I think we felt that 'The Deathship...' being a strong and very powerful record lacked a little bit in terms of atmospherics and mysticism. We concentrated this time a lot on having strong atmospherics in the music which resulted in a very cinematic feel to the album. I personally was also not really satisfied with the lyrics I wrote for our debut, meaning not that they are bad, but I knew I can do a lot better and I think that's what's behind the lyrics and the whole concept of 'Carpathia'.

One of the things that immediately jumps out is the proficiency with orchestral elements like strings and piano. This is the first time, if I am not mistaken, that you have recorded with an orchestra. Was it challenging to make classically trained musicians used to playing Mozart, Beethoven and the likes to accept your musical vision?

I have to correct you. We already worked with the same musicians partly on the debut album and especially on the bonus disc to 'The Deathship...' which featured strings only versions of some of the songs. But we never worked with that many classical musicians – both Konstanz and I have previously worked with classical instruments on our former projects, so we knew how they work. Our tenor on the other hand is a good friend of ours and metal to the bone and is unlike the cliche of the classically trained intellectual guys.

Why did you decide to introduce more orchestral elements into TVB's music? Was it the fact that the story behind 'Carpathia' required an epic sound?

I don't really know – it just happened during the writing process of the album that we worked more and more on orchestral parts. I think that is what makes our style so unique. On one hand you have those raw and pounding metal riffs like on "Secrecies..." or "Carpathia", and on the other hand the epic orchestral parts which uphold the story-telling idea we always had for The Vision Bleak in full glory!

Lyrically, how difficult is it to write a concept album? Obviously, the story has to be cohesive and not overly simplistic...

It's something I always wanted to do and in the end proved easier than I expected it to be. The most difficult part was reacting with the lyrics to the music and vice versa. You see, music and lyrics have not been written independently of each other – both constantly inspired each other to go into new directions and react on what was written. But in the end that's why music and lyrics have such a strong unity on 'Carpathia'.

Because 'Carpathia' is a concept album, did you record each song in the order it follows on the album?

We did not only record them in chronology – the whole album was almost written like the song order is on the album – "Secrecies..." and "Carpathia" being the first songs we wrote while "Kutulu!" and "The Charm is Done" being the last songs we wrote.

What influences did you incorporate in creating 'Carpathia', musically and lyrically?

Hard to answer. I think musically we felt pretty inspired by a lot of film scores especially of horror film soundtracks but we also have been pretty inspired by the raw and sinister metal side of bands like Slayer, Entombed, etc....

Speaking of the story, if I am not mistaken, it ends with the traveler being trapped in Carpathia and unable to return home. A pity ending, isn't it?

Our traveler is being trapped by his own destiny that lies for him in the darkness of Carpathia. "I shall dwell in the abyss in glory and in wonder, in spheres in which my blackened heart forever mayest ponder...in darkness". These are the closing words of the album. Whether it is a pity ending or not lies in the eye of the beholder. For me it is not.

The cover of 'Carpathia' looks phenomenal! Is this how you see the world your traveler gets lost in? Where is that picture taken from?

It sums up the atmosphere of the album perfectly and was once more done by the talented Lukasz Jaszak with whom we worked together numerous times and who never dissapoints us with his works.

From your Empyrium days to The Vision Bleak, one thing that remains a staple in your music is the dark, gloomy, almost Lovecraftian atmosphere. How important is ambiance to a band like TVB? Do you think too many of nowadays metal bands are too happy?

I definitely think so! Ambience and that certain aura around music, lyrics and the whole imagery of a band is very important to us. And personally I just can't stand the whole hollow, new wave of American heavy metal super emotional shit – to me it sounds all fake and over-ethusiastic.

Even though TVB is often described as a "gothic metal" band, there has always been, to me at least, a heavy rock'n'roll presence in your sound particularly due to the way the guitar riffs are isolated. Accurate?

More than accurate – please tell that to all the German gothic magazines that categorise us as "gothic metal".

Continuing with the previous question, do you feel there is too much denomination in modern metal; too many genres?

Yeah, but what can you do? I think it went a little over the top anyway. If you look back bands like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest or Black Sabbath – they are all very different but have been considered "heavy metal" or bands like Slayer, old Metallica and Sabbat – all "thrash". But then again, I always refer to The Vision Bleak as a "horror metal" band so there you have another new style.

Forgive my comparison, but if I had to compare TVB to any band out there, I would have to say Type O Negative, in the way your slower songs are paced, guitar tones, and even some similarities in vocals, especially on "Sister Najade". Was Type O an influence on you?

I am not at all a fan of Type O but I see the comparision when it comes to a song like "Sister Najade" and especially the vocals thereon. But generally I think we have more in common with a band like Metallica than with Type O if you see what I mean.

While TVB is only two of you, 'Carpathia' contains some wonderful female soprano vocals and orchestral parts that obviously require guest musicians for a live setting. How difficult is it of an endeavor to pull the material off live?

We are a five piece band live. Having a session drummer, second guitar player and bass player plus Konstanz on vocals and me on guitar. Everything else comes from the computer meaning we are slaves to a click track, but it's currently the only way for us to realize the live performances. We already have played a concert with 15 musicians at the last year With Full Force festival - we had ten orchestra musicians with us on stage and though it was enjoyable to hear and play those songs with them, organising it was a nightmare.

Speaking of live, it seems like TVB is playing many more shows in support of 'Carpathia' than before. Unlike Empyrium, is TVB a full touring band?

Yes we are! And many gigs are to follow. I hope we get the chance to come over to the States one day.

Returning back to your new album, another slight difference from 'Deathship...' are some of Konstanz's black metal shrieks. It really sounds like you wanted to add more evil aura to this new album…

Those black metal shrieks are performed by me and yes they are on the album to uphold its sinister flair.

"The Charm is Done" is your most ambitious song to date. It is a perfect ending to 'Carpathia'; it unites all of the different musical styles of TVB. Was this your most difficult song to write?

Like I mentioned earlier it was the last song written for the album and yes, it is our most ambitious song to date. We knew we had to make a grande finale for the album and suprisingly writing the song went totally easy. But we spent a lot of time with the orchestral arrangements on this one.

What seems somewhat inappropriate, and what I am sure drives you crazy is how often you get asked about your old band - Empyrium. Why do you think that is? Obviously, the music you created is phenomenal but also do you think that maybe you left too much enigma behind that band?

It is sometimes tiresome to always speak about things that are past, but I see what fascinates people about Empyrium and I still love some of the albums we did. The enigma around it was a part of the concept just as the horror moods are a part of the The Vision Bleak concept.

'Carpathia' nearly cracked the charts in Germany which should make you happy. What are some of the things you want to accomplish with this band?

Stuff like that doesn't mean too much to us, but it's nice to see we are a good selling band and lots of people enjoy what we are doing. The most important part of it all is that we feel well with what we are doing – and we do!

Any final comments?

Thanks for a very interesting interview. I hope we can come and play in the States one day!